Author: Walter Kempowski
Translator: Shaun Whiteside
Original language: German
Published by: Granta Books, 2014
Swansong 1945 brings together hundreds of letters, diary extracts and autobiographical accounts to chronicle four days in 1945: 20th April, Hitler's last birthday, 25th April, when American and Soviet troops first met at the Elbe, 30th April, the day Hitler committed suicide, and 8th May, the day of the German surrender. Side by side in these pages, we encounter civilians fleeing on foot to the west, British and American POWs dreaming of home, concentration camp survivors, loyal soldiers from both sides of the conflict as well as national leaders including Churchill.
These first-hand accounts, which Walter Kempowski painstakingly collected, organised and shaped for publication over twenty years, provide the raw material of history unmediated by a historian's narrative. The voices of individuals speak for themselves, and through their many experiences, perspectives and situations, the condition of Europe during the zero hour of war is viscerally recreated. A modern classic, this vital work brings to life a time whose repercussions are still felt today.